1. The Original Trans-Siberian Express
Spanning 9288km of track, this is perhaps the most iconic of rail journeys and the longest passenger train route in the world. With an average speed of just 77km/h, the trip from Moscow to Vladivostok isn’t for those on a tight schedule – you’ll need to set aside a minimum 146 hours, 8 minutes (six and a bit days), and most journeys include stopovers. But for that investment you’ll cross multiple time zones and witness the breadth of Russia’s majestic terrain, from verdant woodlands, through mountains and desert, to grassy steppe. While itineraries vary, most journeys break at Irkutsk, one of the largest cities in Siberia, with ornately decorated 19th century buildings, just 70km from World Heritage-listed Lake Baikal.
2. The Canadian
The trip from Toronto to Vancouver is a sleepy 83 hours long – but considering you’ll be winding through the steep and snow-capped Rocky Mountains and Canadian Shield forests, the pace suits anyone looking for relaxation, rest and peaceful views. Huge glass windows make the most of the scenery as the train wends its way across 4466km of Canada’s diverse landscape.
3. The Blue Train
South Africa’s famous Blue Train spans 1600km of track linking Pretoria with Cape Town. More like a hotel on rails than a train, there are lounge carriages where passengers can mingle in comfort and some suites contain full-sized baths. High-tech additions like the driver’s eye camera view meet classic decor and a butler service. The journey takes 27 hours from start to finish and crosses some of the most diverse and picturesque scenery on the African continent. Don’t expect to feel the rush of wind through your hair though, as its average speed is just 57km/h.
4. The Indian Pacific
Departing from Sydney, it takes about 70 hours for the Indian Pacific to traverse the Australian continent on its way to Perth. Stopping at the mining town of Broken Hill, Adelaide, and Kalgoorlie you’ll cover 4352km at an average speed of 85km/h. At that rate, you’ll catch the full glory of the sun setting across the horizon on the longest stretch of straight rail track in the world. Travel in spring for the best of Western Australia’s wildflowers.
5. Jinghu High Speed Rail
For those who like their train travel to evoke the future rather than the past, China is calling. The showcase of China’s modern rail fleet was launched in 2012 and shaves 20 hours off the 1303km trip from Beijing to Shanghai, delivering passengers to their destination in five super-fast hours. It is currently the fastest long-distance passenger train in the world, reaching speeds of 300km/h.
Fastest passenger train
The MagLev Chou Shinkanzen – a Japanese magnetic levitation train – broke the world speed record for a passenger train back in April. During a test run near Mt Fuji, this new breed of bullet train reached an incredible speed of 603km/h. The planned top speed in operation is 505km/h and it will ultimately connect Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, with the first stage opening in 2027.
Longest train journey
The China-Europe Block Train travels 9977km from Yiwu to Madrid over 21 days. But train buffs who have made the Trans Siberian trip needn’t feel miffed, as this is a decidedly unglamorous freight service designed to cut up to two weeks off the sea freight time between the two cities.
Longest and heaviest train
Australian-based BHP Billiton intentionally set the record in 2001 over a 275km distance in Western Australia. The 7.35km-long train comprised 683 freight cars carrying iron ore and eight locomotives, distributed along its length. The total weight of the train was 99,735 tonnes.